|LEPERS FIND THE BREAD OF LIFE|
Due to its sin, Israel was again in dire straits. The powerful Syrian army had encircled Samaria, waiting for its chance to besiege the city, and there was also a great famine in the land. Jehoram, the king, was a fickle man who had seen God perform miracles through Elisha the prophet and had even called Elisha "my father." However, since Israel’s situation had deteriorated, he illogically blamed Elisha for Israel’s troubles, and had issued a decree of death against him. In fact, Jehoram even followed his soldier to Elisha’s quarters, to see the arrest. But instead of consummating it, he was instead confronted with a prophecy from Elisha declaring that God would provide deliverance for Israel the very next day.
"Then Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: "Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria."’ " So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, ‘Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’ And he said, ‘In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.’" 2Kings 7:1-2 (NKJV)
Even the king is not so scornful as to question this well-known prophet, but one of his high-ranking officials does. This man has the audacity to voice his doubts, not only by questioning the veracity of Elisha, but also the sovereign power of God. As a result, he is included in the prophecy, with the enigmatic statement that he would see the food, but not partake of it. This prophecy, like so many others in the Bible, also speaks to the distant future, for the man represents Israel, which would see the Messiah and the salvation He offered, but not "taste of it."
"Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, ‘Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, "We will enter the city," the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.’" 2Kings 7:3-4 (NKJV)
The lepers were the lowest people of Israel. Forced to live outside the gates because of their contagious disease, they could survive only if people threw them scraps of food. But in the days of this Scripture even scraps of food were precious, and so the lepers were the first to lack nourishment. Evidently they had not heard Elisha’s prophecy, and being practical, decided they would be no worse off if they surrendered to the Syrians, because they were going to die anyway.
Leprosy represents sin and its fatal, ugly results. But the lepers of our day do not wish to find a cure – most will not surrender to God and throw themselves on His mercy. They may hear that a new life can be found in Christ, and that the spiritual experience of being born again will give them power over the sin that has them in bondage, but they choose not to venture out and discover the truth. Only if we search for God with all our heart will we find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13). Reader, are you not certain of the truth? If you have not found it in the places you have already searched, is it not time to now search "outside the camp" – meaning outside the typically held reasoning of the world? Unbelief may seem to have reason on its side, and many plausible arguments can and have been made against the Bible. But if you are "dying" to know the truth, Jesus promises, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32 (NKJV)
"And they rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians; and when they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise no one was there." 2Kings 7:5 (NKJV)
The Hebrew word nesheph is used here for twilight, and it means "the dawning of the morning" or "the dawning of a new day." In a shadow of this, new life is found by the lepers as they reach out in faith. There are also no enemies in the place they have reached – because of God’s supernatural intervention, as we read:
"For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses--the noise of a great army; so they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us!’ Therefore they arose and fled at twilight, and left the camp intact--their tents, their horses, and their donkeys--and they fled for their lives. And when these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them; then they came back and entered another tent, and carried some from there also, and went and hid it." 2Kings 7:6-7 (NKJV)
No longer would the lepers starve – not with all the food they had found outside the camp. They could eat their fill and have much left over, without even paying for it! From this we can see a type of the spiritual truth of salvation as Isaiah prophesied, which finds its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ:
"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1 (NKJV)
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." John 6:51 (NKJV)
Salvation More Than Food for the Body
However, the lepers find more than just food. They also find silver, gold, and raiment, or clothing, which are also representative of spiritual things, even as we read in Ephesian 3:8 about "the unsearchable riches of Christ." The silver speaks to us of redemption. It was not only used in the betrayal of Christ, but was also required under Old Testament law for newly born infants:
"And those redeemed of the devoted things you shall redeem when one month old, according to your valuation, for five shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs." Numbers 18:16 (NKJV)
After redemption, God reveals to us His sovereignty, which is represented here by the gold. Throughout the Bible, gold stands for kingship, and as we acknowledge God’s kingship, He also covers us with raiment, or clothing – representative of righteousness. In Revelation 19:8 we read, regarding the body of Christ: "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (KJV).
An Enhanced Conscience
These lepers have found more than they could have imagined. Their stomachs are full, and with their new material wealth, they probably have more than they ever have had in their lives. Nevertheless, something is bothering them.
"Then they said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king's household.’" 2Kings 7:9 (NKJV)
Would not everyone agree that what they realized was the only just course of action? Would it not have been unspeakably selfish for them to continue thinking only of themselves, when there were hungry children crying for food back in Samaria? Remember though, these were the "off-scouring" of Israel. They could have held a vendetta for the way they were treated. But a new, deeper conscience had been born in them, which speaks to us of the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. Coupled with this was a profound revelation of God’s punishment for disobedience. They feared punishment, and also wanted to do what was right. This is the sign of conversion in a person. Although we constantly are harangued about the hypocrisy of the church, and the fact that Christians constantly fail – there is also the fact that God has revealed the change of character that occurs in true conversions. God has allowed individuals to witness in others His magnificent transforming power. Men and women and girls and boys are saved, and others see the change. They stop drinking and drugging and cursing and stealing and smoking and their lives become productive.
The world cannot deny that God has revealed this. However, they may also note that these same people become annoying to them, because they wish to share their enlightenment. The new believers know that some punishment will come if they do not share the goodness of Christ and the deliverance He offers from sin and eternity in hell. They must go back and tell their friends, or they are not doing what is right. And in so doing, they become not only God’s spokesmen, and the salt and light of the world, but also to some extent an aggravation to skeptics, who question the veracity of what they say.
The Skeptic is Punished
The lepers had a hard time convincing the king that the Syrians had actually left and were not planning an ambush, but after sending some of his soldiers first, the king finally allowed people to go out of the camp and store the provisions the army had left. They were then sold for exactly the amount Elisha had prophesied, and the prophecy about the officer also came true. This is what happened to the one who questioned Elisha and God’s ability to work the miraculous:
"Now the king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. But the people trampled him in the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, ‘Two seahs of barley for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, shall be sold tomorrow about this time in the gate of Samaria.’" 2Kings 7:17-18 (NKJV)
There is a healthy skepticism we should all maintain, or we might find ourselves deceived about a great many things, or trust people that we should not. Moreover, God will honor honest skeptics who sincerely want to find the truth – providing they are open to accepting the truth when God reveals it to them. But this man was skeptical in a scornful way. He certainly knew that Elisha had performed many miracles in Israel. He was also a Jew and would be familiar with the Scriptures, and the record of the Exodus from Egypt, because every Jewish family was commanded to retell the story every year to their children. He would then have known that God performed mighty miracles to liberate Israel and destroy the Egyptian army when they pursued them.
His sin, therefore, was unbelief, and it gave a dark tinge to his reasoning. Have we not also been guilty of this? Can we not see how our own unbelief darkens God’s providence toward us, and prevents us from seeing His gracious hand? However, his unbelief was the most serious – it was unto death. His words reveal that in haughtiness of spirit and intellectual pride he would not believe anything he could not understand or reason out.
Isaac Newton, who was a Christian, was mocked for his beliefs by the French philosopher Voltaire. Newton predicted that some day man would travel at fifty miles an hour. Voltaire sardonically referred to Newton’s faith as the reason he would say such an idiotic thing. He admitted that Newton was a brilliant scientist, but said only his foolish religion could account for such a lapse in common sense. Voltaire thought that a man’s body could not withstand such a speed. Over and over again, we see that scientific inventions which seemed impossible have become a reality. Should we then be so quick to dismiss spiritual matters about which we are ignorant? By the way, Voltaire and his "age of reason" devotees mocked God and Christianity at every turn, and yet the building they used in Europe was eventually purchased by a missionary society that currently prints the Christian message they so vehemently despised.
Broken by Christ or Crushed by Him
The skeptical officer was crushed in an apparent accident. Lest we have any question over God’s control over such matters, we see clear evidence here that such "accidents" do not occur outside the providence of God. It is fascinating that not only did the very momentum of this miracle cause his demise – it was also symbolic of other Scriptures which speak of the two reactions one might have to Jesus Christ.
Jesus is referred to as the chief cornerstone not only of Christianity, but also life, since "all things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." John 1:3 (NKJV). We are told that we will be judged according to our reaction to Him, and we will either be "broken" and be saved, or crushed in judgment, for we also read in Luke 20:18, "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." Yet God also tells us that "the Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18
Expect the Extraordinary
The skeptic in this story did not expect the extraordinary, even though the prophet announced not only that it would happen, but that it would happen at a specific time. Dear reader, if you are a skeptic reading this, consider another prophecy specifically for you. The day that you open your heart to believe that Jesus Christ, as God and man, died for your sins and rose from the grave, and you repent of your sins and turn your life over to His kingship, a miracle will occur in your life. You will have no question about who God is, for He will reside in your heart and reveal Himself to you. An old rock song had the lyrics, "I’m looking for a miracle in my life." Are you? To find it you must go outside the camp of this world and its reasoning. There you will find eternal life and the answer to your search. But if you scorn the possibility of God revealing Himself to you – if you disdain the possibility of Him feeding you with the bread of life – you can expect instead only the dreadful consequences the stubborn skeptic received, for the rock, the spiritual truth that we will be judged by God for our sins, will crush you.
Why be judged when you can be forgiven? Why disdain His love when He offers it so freely, and why let intellectual pride keep you from finding the truth of God? Elisha promised the miracle and it occurred; Christ promises the miracle of a salvation experience, and if you humble yourself before Him, He will reveal Himself as the truth of the Universe – for His desire is not to crush us, but to humble us that He might bless us with eternal life.